What Should I Expect at My C&P Exam?
So you just got a notice from the VA on your VA disability claim requesting that you appear for a Compensation & Pension Exam (often referred to as a C&P Exam).
What is that? Should I be worried? What should I expect at a C&P exam?
No, there is no need to worry. Nothing is wrong.
The C&P exam process is just a regular part of handling your claim for service-connected disability benefits from the VA. This article will explain what a C&P exam is, why it is important, and outline what to expect.
What is a C&P exam, and why is it important?
A C&P exam is a physical and/or psychological examination conducted by a VA medical provider or a medical provider designated by the VA. This is not like a usual doctor’s appointment but is a fact-finding process designed to obtain verification of your claimed disability and determine its severity. Your C&P examiner will have reviewed your medical records in advance and will ask questions and conduct an examination.
The scope of the examination will depend on the disability being reviewed. Unlike your regular doctor, the C&P examiner will not be prescribing any treatment.
A C&P exam is an essential piece of the procedural process of handling a veteran’s disability claim process. Its purpose is fact-finding – the C&P examiner will create a report after the examination that will be part of your disability file.
If the VA requests you to attend a C&P exam, but you fail to attend, your disability claim will likely be denied. If you have a good reason for missing a C&P exam, you can request the VA to reschedule it, but it is best practice just to attend as scheduled.
What should you expect during a C&P exam?
Most C&P exams last only 15-20 minutes, but it is best to be prepared for an hour, especially if your condition is complicated. Be prepared to answer questions about your symptoms and medical or psychological condition. Also, be ready to submit to a physical examination and possibly some lab or other diagnostic tests. While there are similarities to a general physical exam, the purpose of the C&P exam is to collect information, not treat you.
Jotting down some notes for yourself in advance, so you don’t forget things during the C&P exam is not a bad idea. Also, bring a list of your current medications (who remembers how to spell all of those?)
Consider bringing along your spouse or someone who spends a lot of time with you. Someone who daily observes your condition might add significant insight for the C&P examiner. They might be able to shed more light on your condition and also check you when you try to minimize your symptoms because you are trying to be tough.
It will be the C&P examiner’s decision on whether to allow this support person to be in the examination with you, but understand that it is common.
What’s the process of a C&P exam?
A C&P exam is a commonly requested step in processing a VA disability claim. It is part of the fact-finding process upon which the VA makes its determination of (1) whether you have a service-connected disability; and, if so, (2) assigning a rating (a percentage between 10% and 100%) indicating the severity of your disability.
There are particular criteria for both determinations of the existence of a service-connected disability and for determining a disability rating. Although the VA can glean a lot of this information from your existing medical records, which you have submitted to them already, the C&P exam can fill in any blanks in information and also can serve to verify and quantify medical findings.
A C&P examiner receives a copy of your medical records before the C&P exam and reviews that. This C&P exam paperwork includes all of the medical records you have submitted in your VA disability claim but wouldn’t include anything new.
You can provide the C&P examiner with any additional medical records you have, though you should do this in advance of your appointment, so they have a chance to review them. From a review of the medical records and standard criteria used for all of these examinations, the C&P examiner will ask questions about your condition, symptoms, and effect on your job and other life activities. They may also conduct a physical examination and diagnostic tests. The examiner will later put all of this information in a C&P exam report.
The scope of the examination will be determined based on the type of disability you have claimed. A general practice physician will be selected as a C&P examiner for many conditions, but the law requires a specialist in a specific field to conduct the C&P exam for certain conditions. If the claimed disability is a vision, hearing, dental, or psychiatric condition, a specialist must do the evaluation.
How long does it take to get a C&P decision?
You will not receive a “C&P decision” per se. Instead, the C&P examiner will prepare a report forwarded to the VA and placed in your VA disability claim file. You can obtain a copy of it and may be able to supplement or balance out any findings that you feel are incomplete or inaccurate by submitting additional documentation from your physician.
The C&P report becomes part of the veteran’s disability claim file, and you can expect a Notice of Decision on the claim a few months after the C&P exam. The VA estimates that veterans will receive a decision on their disability claim within 3-4 months of the C&P examination if one is requested. Individual cases will, of course, vary.
Once you have received a Notice of Decision letter on your disability claim, you have one year to initiate the VA claim appeal process. During the appeal process, you will have an opportunity to address issues you may have with the C&P exam report if you find problems in it.
What do I do once I get my C&P results?
You will not directly receive any “C&P results.” Instead, the C&P examiner prepares a report after the exam that covers the reviewed medical history documentation and the findings and conclusions from the C&P exam itself. This report goes directly to your VA disability claim file.
You can request a copy from the VA, however. Most often, the next thing to do after the C&P exam is simply waiting for your Notice of Decision letter. At that point, you’ll be able to evaluate and consult with an attorney about whether the VA’s decision needs to be appealed to either reverse a denial of claim or increase the disability rating.
Is it possible to appeal the results of a C&P exam?
No, there is no appeal process for the results of a C&P exam or a C&P exam report.
However, that doesn’t mean that if you disagree with the findings in a C&P exam report, there is nothing to do. You may be able to supplement your initial VA disability claim file with additional medical opinions from your doctors to fill in gaps or explain matters that don’t appear correct in the C&P exam report.
More likely, however, the time to appeal any part of the VA disability claim process starts upon receipt of the Notice of Decision letter, which usually will arrive a few months after you complete the C&P exam.
Talking with a lawyer soon after receiving a Notice of Decision letter you disagree with will allow you to explore options for either reversing a claim denial or increasing the disability rating you received.
Have your VA disability claim been rejected, or do you feel the VA underrated the severity of your service-connected disability? Veterans Law Group has helped thousands of veterans like you obtain all of the disability benefits they are entitled to. Maybe we can help you.